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Mercedes-Benz might withdraw from Detroit Auto Show

It would be the latest and largest automaker to withdraw from NAIAS

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Mercedes-Benz is reportedly mulling whether to pull out of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next year, becoming what would be the largest and most prominent automaker to announce its withdrawal from the annual show in recent years.

Automotive News cites unnamed sources within the company. "We have to look at whether a trade show like Detroit fits with the cadence of our launch calendar and whether there's a more effective format for our needs," it quoted a senior Mercedes executive as saying. "The G-Class was the perfect product to debut this year, but the likelihood we will be in Detroit next year is very slim. That doesn't mean however we are ruling out a return in 2020." Another unnamed source with parent Daimler AG suggested that auto trade shows are "no longer contemporary."

Mercedes launched the new G-Class luxury SUV last month in a former theater in Detroit with Arnold Schwarzenegger as special guest, and it displayed an older version encased in a giant block of amber resin outside Cobo Center. The company occupies a prominent, well-trafficked and sizable location on the show floor every year and typically hosts a number of news conferences and afterglow-style offsite events during media preview days.

If it does indeed withdraw from the show next year, Mercedes would join automakers like Mazda, Volvo, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Jaguar and Land Rover that have opted to skip Detroit as they watch their marketing budgets. That's led to more prime floor space being granted to Chinese automakers like GAC Motors, which displayed last month, auto suppliers, luxury vehicle dealers and racing firms. And this is a problem faced not just by NAIAS but by other auto shows as well.

For Detroit, a withdrawal by Mercedes would leave holes both physical and psychological. For starters, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche served for years as CEO of Chrysler Group when the brand was owned by Daimler, and he built up considerable goodwill in the region through his personality and philanthropic efforts.

Two, Cobo Center just underwent a $279 million expansion, completed in 2015, to repair and modernize the convention center and add 25,000 square feet of space in large part because of warnings from NAIAS organizers that many automakers were threatening to leave if improvements weren't made. The auto show is Cobo's signature event, with an annual economic impact worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

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